Luca Connell's granny would stop him abandoning Ireland

Mick McCarthy denies he’s fast-tracking 18-year-old due to interest from England

Luca Connell (centre) at Republic of Ireland squad training in Quinto do Lago,  Portugal, with   Seamus Coleman, Callum O’Dowda, Shane Duffy and Ronan Curtis. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Luca Connell (centre) at Republic of Ireland squad training in Quinto do Lago, Portugal, with Seamus Coleman, Callum O’Dowda, Shane Duffy and Ronan Curtis. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Declan Rice and Jack Grealish have ensured a health warning accompanies dual-eligible players emerging through the Irish ranks, but his grandmother Margaret Simpson may ensure Luca Connell doesn’t complete a trio of defectors.

The 18-year-old, soon on the move from crisis club Bolton Wanderers, is the bolter in Mick McCarthy’s senior squad, which on Wednesday began a week’s training in the Algarve.

The Republic of Ireland manager dismissed any talk of Connell’s fast-tracking being due to the interest suddenly taken by his homeland in the Liverpudlian’s international future.

One minute on the pitch in either of next month’s Euro qualifiers, more likely against Gibraltar than the preceding trip to Denmark, would prevent another saga similar to those endured over Rice and Grealish.

Connell, for his part, while non-committal on affirming his allegiance to Ireland, admitted he wouldn’t emulate Rice by withdrawing from the squad to avoid becoming permanently wedded to his ancestral country. Such dithering, besides, is likely to trigger a backlash from his grandmother.

Broad smile

“She wouldn’t speak to me if that happened,” the newcomer said, sporting a broad smile.

“My mum’s parents are both from Dublin and my Nan is still with us, living in Liverpool.

If you turn that turn, not just the gaffer, but the team wouldn’t be happy with you

“The FAI scout Gerry Murphy got me first involved with the Ireland Under-16s and here I am in the senior squad.

“I’ve read the speculation [about England] but haven’t had any direct contact.

“I wouldn’t hold back from the chance to play for Ireland in the qualifiers because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If you turn that turn, not just the gaffer, but the team wouldn’t be happy with you.”

With Connell new to the fold, down the pecking order from others in the queue, McCarthy may have other ideas for the upcoming double-header.

So long as the risk remains of him jumping ship, a question mark will attach to Connell’s status.

Gareth Southgate managed to win over Rice and a meeting with the latest starlet in demand at some stage wasn’t rubbished by Connell.

“I’m happy where I am at the minute,” was his response to the notion of an invite being tabled by the England manager. “I’ll go and see what happens over next few months.”

No regrets

Another uncapped rising star, Mark Travers, insists he has no regrets about choosing football over a career in golf.

The Maynooth native was elevated to Bournemouth’s first-choice goalkeeper for the last two Premier League games of the season.

Travers is equally proficient at putting his hands to use with a golf club, to the point he was tipped to join the professional ranks.

“All I really did up to the age of 15 was play golf,” said the stopper.

“I played the Golf Union of Ireland events as a kid, winning the Munster title at under-13 level. My Dad drove me all over the country.

“I probably would have looked at the route of going to America on a scholarship. Loads of my friends are out there now doing that.

“That all changed after I started going on trials in England at the age of 16.

“Football was the better career but the experience of playing in front of people at golf events certainly helped me mentally prepare to be a goalkeeper. They’re both two sports where you can be lonely.”

Now that he’s broken into the team, Travers has no intention of drifting back to the margins next season. First-team exposure, even on loan, is a must.

“I don’t want to spend another season being third choice,” he asserted. “I turned 20 last week and want to play as many games as possible next season.”

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